Diaspora committee blasts government for not supporting suicidal olim

Panel calls on Israel to provide funding to increase the number of languages in which mental health services are provided.

January 24, 2016 19:27
2 minute read.
IFCJ aliya initiative

Over two hundred new olim arrive on flight of IFCJ aliya initiative. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)


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Emergency services for those with emotional distress do not adequately aid new immigrants, the Knesset Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Committee declared on Sunday. It called on the government to provide funding to increase the number of languages in which such help is provided.

Around 10 percent of the 180,000 inquiries to “emotional first aid” telephone hotline Eran are from new immigrants. Moreover, according to the committee, over the past decade a third of the suicides in Israel were of immigrants: About a quarter from the former Soviet Union who made aliya in 1990 and 3%-8% of the Ethiopian immigrants who have immigrated since 1980.

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“It is absurd that such a vital service is not well supported,” said committee chairman MK. Avraham Neguise.

“Apart from emotional problems that are equivalent to the entire population, the diverse issues that immigrants face are unique and include crises of authority, loneliness, financial hardships, longing and so on.”

In a release, the committee accused the Immigration and Absorption Ministry of not providing the service with any funding, asserting that due to a lack of budget there is a shortfall of call center employees who speak Russian, Amharic and French.

Neguise stated that he intends to convene a meeting of representatives of the Finance, Health and Immigration and Absorption ministries to discuss the issue and “ensure the allocation of dedicated resources to train volunteers who speak different languages.”

“During my time in the Knesset it became clear to me that the Absorption Ministry was not providing for the needs of new immigrants – especially in different languages,” former MK and American immigrant Rabbi Dov Lipman told The Jerusalem Post.

“The fact that there were office hours for English at specific times only was not acceptable and we began the process of trying to change that. There have been roundtable discussions that have led to certain improvements but not enough. I hope that the current government will address this issue and make sure that new immigrants from all backgrounds can reach out to the ministry for assistance in all languages at all times or that the ministry will at least support those organizations that already provide these services.”

Asked about Neguise’s statement, a spokesman for the Immigration and Absorption Ministry rejected the criticism, stating that the ministry had supported Eran for years but that the group had ceased submitting requests for funding in 2005.

“Please note that the Health Ministry is the ministry in charge of the aid and public mental health. In recent years, the subject of dealing with suicide is the responsibility through the national program for the prevention of suicide, led by the participation of other ministries, including the Immigration and Absorption Ministry,” said spokesman Elad Sonn.

“The subject of accessibility linguistic and cultural health services are the responsibility of the Health Ministry,” he added, pointing to a 2011 decision by the Health ministry to expand accessibility to services in light of heightened immigration from Belgium, France and Ukraine.

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